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Top Right: Maxi Priest, Top Left: Robin Thicke, Bottom Right: Estelle won over the crowds with her outstanding voice and shiny mini dress Bottom Left: The soulful Randy Crawford along with pianist Joe Sample had the crowd grooving (Photos: Heidi Zech)

Richie’s love affair with the Caribbean and its calypso and reggae style rhythm spans several decades. A great fan and friend of the island’s beloved Bob Marley, Richie says that Marley’s spiritual presence and music had a great influence on him and his music. Their friendship dates back to 1980, when Bob Marley and The Wailers posed as the opening act for two sold out Commodores concerts at New York’s Madison Square Garden, an act Richie describes as ‘absolutely magical.’ While Jamaica’s reggae influence can clearly be heard in Se La, the Caribbean region’s happy, care-free calypso beat that has everybody dancing when they go on vacation gave Richie the inspiration for his top hit All Night Long, and shows off the joyful Caribbean influence through steel drums, Latin horns and cool vocal harmonies. It is no wonder that Lionel decided to end the show with that very same, special song. The superstar said that he is reminded of how great Jamaica is each time he returns and commented on the many improvements that have taken place since he last visited the island to perform at the 2004 Sumfest; “I love it. When I came back this time, I saw serious growth. Condominiums, roadways, I mean; it’s wonderful. I am not leaving, I will stay for a couple of days.”

Over the years, the annual Jazz & Blues festival has grown from a friendly get-together to an event that entertains up to 40,000 patrons over its three day duration, sporting many world class songbirds such as Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Rogers and Michael Bolton. Like every year, the lineup of artists was hand-picked to appeal both to the young and the young at heart, and this year’s stage was graced by many outstanding performances. While Thursday night featured hit-maker Robin Thicke, the charismatic Estelle, Gramps Morgan and Grammy Award winners Los Van Van, Friday night’s show included great artists such as Diana Rutherford, Alto Reed’s Blues Entourage, Roslyn Williams, the 14 year old Canadian songbird Nikki Yanofsky, the Lou Gramm Band and the soulful Randy Crawford. At the Saturday finale, reggae master Maxi Priest had the people grooving while the O’Jays, Atlantic Starr and Chicago had the masses singing to familiar tunes.

Richie commended Walter Elmore’s TurnKey Productions for the great job they do in promoting the event. Said Richie; “Jamaica is an infectious place, it’s an infectious group and they deliver better than you think. If you think it is gonna be 7,000 people, it’s gonna be 12,000. If they say 10,000 people, it’s gonna be 20,000.”

Concluded Richie; “Thanks for inviting me. I will be back many, many times over.”

Karen Dennis and Walter Elmore, President of Turnkey Productions with superstar Lionel Richie (Photo: Turnkey Productions)

JAMAICA TOURIST 19

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